Free Birds and Drop Kick Chihuhahas

Every dance club, beer pub and yuppie hub in town is having its own New Year's Eve celebration with live music and cheap champagne, but the two largest blowouts for the sonically inclined will appeal to two distinct audiences: Gap-ad lovin' Buzz Nation kids and Rebel Rousers who remember when yelling "Free Bird!" really meant something.

Taking place on two outdoor stages around Bayou Place, New Year's Eve Houston 1999 will feature ten bands: co-headliners Chlorine, Blue October and The Hunger, plus local faves Los Skarnales, I-45, Carolyn Wonderland, Jesse Dayton, Drop Kick Chihuahuas, Secret Sunday and Dune, TX. Among them, they cover the musical spectrum from blooz and Spanish rock to industrial, pop and thrash. The music will stop only for the stroke of midnight and a fireworks display, but you can take a break at the Aerial Theater's DJ-helmed dance club, in the restaurants along the perimeter of the party or by watching local street performers. Nothing says "turn of the century" like verbally assaulting a mime-in-a-box.

"This will be the party and the place to be," promises (naturally) Charlie Walker, general manager of Pace Concerts. "And this party is a great example of the downtown revitalization. [In the past] for this event, we've brought thousands of people into downtown for the first time in years."

But last year's New Year's Eve lineup featured far bigger names, including rock legends Chuck Berry and Little Richard, cult faves Reverend Horton Heat and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, new rockers Fastball and Dishwalla and more. So why the toned-down roster for the millennium?

"We briefly looked at some large bands for this year's party, but we wanted to keep the event inexpensive," Walker says. "And in the end, we realized that we wanted to celebrate Houston with the best talent that Houston has to offer." Hometown pride aside, Pace has been successful in bucking the millennial hype and keeping ticket prices low: a mere $10 compared to last year's $60.

Where, oh, where have the big-name headliners gone? To Compaq Center, where you can party like it's 1979 with a double dose of good ol' Southern rock: ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Though purists feel that the "real" Skynyrd went down in the 1977 plane crash that killed singer and guiding light Ronnie Van Zandt and others, the current lineup that features three original members and Van Zandt's younger brother Johnny on eerily reminiscent vocals is actually in the midst of a huge revival. That's thanks mostly to -- no joke -- the episode of VH-1's Behind the Music, which profiled the band and remains one of the addictive series's most popular shows. Featuring enough real-life triumph and tragedy (not to mention drugs, booze, sex, guns and near-fatal injuries) to put any wussy '90s group to shame, the show has prompted a new generation to join those who live to scream the words to the classic rock warhorses "Sweet Home Alabama," "What's Your Name" and "Saturday Night Special."

But while Lynyrd Skynyrd knows the faithful come for the old stuff, ZZ Top is trying to keep current, touring on its recently released record XXX, which, given your leanings, could stand for either the number of years the follicularly gifted trio has been together, or an ode to the adult entertainment industry vibe celebrated in the band's trademark usage of sexy gals, poles and more cleavage than clothing.

Old or new, either show should be a great way to ring in the new year, century and millennium (nuts to you 2001 advocates) with a few thousand like-minded souls. And not a sign of Dick Clark anywhere.

New Year's Eve Houston at Bayou Place starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 the day of the show. The ZZ Top/Lynyrd Skynyrd show at Compaq Center begins at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 to $99.99. Call (713)629-3700 for tickets to either show.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero